Opiates in the Workplace – November 2016

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

November 2016

IN THIS ISSUE: Opiates in the Workplace

Over the last few years, physicians have increased the use of opiates and opioids (the synthetic version of opiates) to control pain making these drugs among the most prescribed in the U.S. This category of drugs includes hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxycontin, and other opioid pain relievers. As with most prescription medicine, they are an essential healthcare benefit and, when used as prescribed, can contribute to beneficial outcomes and a better quality of life. At the same time, there are an increasing number of patients who overuse these drugs. Opiates and opioids are addictive and users can become abusers. Drug overdoses, now exceed car crashes as the leading cause of unintentional death.

When an off-the-job problem such as opiate addiction crosses over to work and affects an employee’s ability to do his or her job safely and effectively, then it is the responsibility of management and other employees to intervene. To be clear, an employee who takes a medicinal dose of a prescribed opiate tablet, who is under a doctor’s care, and is following the prescription bottle directions is not a problem. The employee who overmedicates with opiates or uses other illegal drugs, such as heroin, is the concern.

Since many opiates are legal, this causes a unique problem for employers such that current drug policies and procedures may not adequately address this issue. Unlike blood alcohol levels, proving an objective measure of unsafe impairment is difficult. It is important to include legal counsel, medical doctors, human resources and employee relations to come up with effective actions.

It also important that both management and employees be educated about this issue and know the following:

  • The effects of these drugs, its addictive properties, and the signs of over use.
  • How it may affect driving.
  • That it is okay for employees, as well as supervisors to intervene, where the health and safety is affected.
  • That they can discuss their concerns about opioid painkillers with their physician.
  • How it may affect their work and what are the company drug policies.
  • What resources are available to employees both off and at work. Including those of the medical provider or company Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Drug abuse is a societal problem. However, when it crosses over to the workplace both employee’s and employers should be made aware of the issue and deal with it effectively. For further information see the National Safety Council study.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at www.occusafeinc.com.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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